More children from rural areas are participating in after-school programs, but the unmet demand for these opportunities remains high.
That was one of the key findings in a new report released today by Afterschool Alliance. The group’s America After 3PM special report, titled “The Growing Importance of Afterschool in Rural Communities,” was sponsored by John Deere.
It found that 13 percent of students in rural areas take part in after-school programs. That’s up from 11 percent in 2009 but still below the national average of 18 percent. And even more rural students would participate if they could. The group’s household survey found that for every rural student enrolled in an after-school program, three more would enroll if such a program were available.
“For some there’s a tendency to think that after school is really an issue for more urban and suburban communities and not so much for rural communities, and the report does a nice job portraying the picture of what after-school programs and the need for after school looks like in rural America,” said Jen Rinehart, the vice president for policy and research at Afterschool Alliance.
One of the main differences the report found between rural programs and those in urban areas was the emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, programming.
“STEM programs are not as prevalent in rural after-school programs as we see in programs outside of rural areas, and in particular, that’s the case with technology,” said Rinehart.
Only 21 percent of rural parents surveyed reported that their child’s after-school program offered learning opportunities in technology and engineering. That’s 9 percentage points below the national average.
The lack of instruction in technology may be due to inadequate funding. But as Rinehart points out, that problem is widespread.
“Lack of funding is an issue in all kinds of after-school programs,” said Rinehart. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re rural, urban, or suburban. But we definitely did find in a survey that we did of rural after-school providers specifically that raising the funds to run and sustain their program is the number one challenge that they reported.”
Afterschool Alliance’s America After 3PM report was based on in-depth interviews conducted in 2014 with more than 13,700 households that were completed via an online survey. More than 3,800 of those households were classified as rural in nature for the purpose of today’s report. In addition to that, an online survey of more than 660 rural after-school providers was conducted last year.
The America After 3PM survey received critical support from five foundations, including the Noyce Foundation and The Wallace Foundation, which also support some coverage in Education Week.
(Photo courtesy Afterschool Alliance and Altoona Campus Kids Klub)
A version of this news article first appeared in the Time and Learning blog.